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Local Authority concerns about domestic abuse around children
The Local Authority have concerns about domestic abuse around my children - what should I do?
The Local Authority may be alerted to concerns about domestic violence by concerned family members, members of the public or professionals. If there are any police call outs to a person’s property where a child is present due to concerns about domestic abuse, it is likely that a safeguarding referral will be made to the Local Authority. Domestic abuse / violence can take many forms and the term is used interchangeably even where physical violence may have not taken place. Coercing, controlling behaviour and emotional abuse and manipulation are also forms of domestic abuse as is sexual and financial abuse.
If the Local Authority are made aware of concerns they may visit your home and complete a Section 47 investigation to determine if your child is at risk of harm and if actions need to be taken to safeguard your child. The Local Authority will also assess if any further support is needed for your family and if you should be signposted to any additional services. It is likely they will ask you personal questions and you may find that the process is quite intrusive which can be difficult if you do not accept that you are a perpetrator or a victim of domestic violence. In some cases, it may be necessary for you to end your relationship with your other half to reduce the concern and to safeguard your child.
There are a number of actions you can take or services you can engage with to reduce the concerns the Local Authority hold such as:
Seeking protective Court Orders - such as a Non-Molestation Order to stop your ex-partner from contacting you further or attending at your home. There are specific orders which prevent your ex-partner from removing your child from your care such as a Prohibited Steps Order and an Occupation Order can be sought to ensure that you remain within the family home and they are required to leave. These Orders are civil in nature but are made by the Court and penal notices can be attached to them which means they can be enforced and the person can be arrested if they do not abide by them. If you are concerned about yours and your child’s safety, you should seek legal advice to determine if you would be eligible for any of the above orders to safeguard your child. Here at Johnson Astills, we have our own department who can provide legal advice in this area which can be found on our website.
Accessing Clare’s Law - if the Local Authority have concerns about your partner, you will be encouraged to access Clare’s Law which is information about your partner’s criminal record and their risk to others including children. It can be accessed at your local police station but you will be required to be in a relationship with that person; it is recommended that you access this at the outset of the relationship so you can protect yourself and your children effectively. As this information is confidential, the Local Authority may allude to concerns and the risks that your partner could pose but will not be able to disclose this so they will encourage you to access this information yourself.
Engage in domestic violence work - you may be encouraged to engage in work surrounding domestic violence either as a victim or as a perpetrator. If you are accessing this work as a perpetrator, you will be required to show some insight and accept that you have perpetrated domestic violence in the past. In Leicester, the Freedom Programme is a domestic violence service offered for women and if you live in Leicester City, the Jenkins Programme is the equivalent for men. However, the Jenkins Centre will not offer this service to men if your case has progressed to court proceedings.
Sign a written agreement - if there are concerns about arguments around your children or that any such arguments occur under the influence of alcohol, you may be asked to sign a written agreement and to adhere to a safety plan. This agreement may require either you or your partner to leave the home if there is an argument or not drink alcohol whilst caring for your child.
Move to a refuge - if you are unable to stay at your family home with your child, you may be supported to flee and be placed in a refuge at short notice. A refuge is a safe house / shelter for women and their children can stay free from fear due to it being confidential. You will be required to be keep the address confidential to ensure your own safety and that of the other residents. During your time there, you will be supported by professionals to take back control of your life and will offer practical support with housing and emotional support.
Report concerns to the police - you may be encouraged to press charges against your ex-partner and will be supported in reporting any incidences of domestic abuse to the police. In some cases, it is beneficial for reports to have been made to the police as this can be used as evidence if you are seeking any protective orders in the future. You may be provided with an independent domestic violence advocate who can support you with this process and there are a number of local charities who can continue to support you in accessing further support and counselling.
If you have Local Authority involvement with your children at Child Protection level ranging through to Care Proceedings in the Family Court then Johnson Astills can assist you. We have experience in assisting parents at all stages of Local Authority involvement. Please contact Johnson Astills at either our Leicester Office on 0116 255 4855 or our Loughborough Office on 01509 610 312 and ask for a member of the Care Team so that we can advise you accordingly. Alternatively, please visit either of the above offices or email us on email@example.com and a member of our team will be happy to assist you.